MANILA – Special Action Force (SAF) commander Moro Virgilio Lazo on Tuesday flatly denied that his men wined and dined with soldiers on the eve of the Mamasapano raid.
Speaking to dzMM, Lazo said he made his own investigation about the claim of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV that Army commanders were invited for a drink on the eve of the January 25 Mamasapano raid, which claimed the lives of 44 SAF troopers.
''Wala pong katotohanan iyan kung SAF ang nakipag-inuman o nalasing ang mga sundalo,'' Lazo said.
''Kasama po sa protocol namin na bago ang conduct ng operation, ina-isolate namin ang mga tao namin, so wala pong katotohanan iyan."
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Monday that a member of the SAF had invited 45th IB commander Lt. Col. Romeo Bautista and 601st Brigade commander Col. Melquiades Feliciano for dinner.
Lazo, however, said Gazmin may have just been misinformed when he said the SAF was involved in the dinner.
In a separate radio interview, Trillanes clarified that it was a police intelligence official not affiliated with SAF who wined and dined with the Army commanders. But he said this official was privy to the SAF operation to neutralize Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Trillanes said the objective of the police intelligence official in inviting the Army commanders for a drink was to check whether the military was preparing for an operation that evening.
''Hindi naman ang intensyon eh lasingin sila. Ang mga sundalo kahit nakapag-inuman iyan, kapag may lakad eh nakaka-responde naman,'' the senator said.
''Ang intensyon eh para mapulsuhan niya, makita niya kung may operation ang army ng mga panahon na iyon."
Trillanes said these pieces of information were mentioned during the Senate's executive sessions on the Mamasapano raid.
He said these were not included in the Senate committee's draft report, but he circumvented the confidential nature of the executive sessions by directly asking permission from Army officials to reveal these details.
Getulio Napeñas, the SAF commander at the time of the raid, has blamed the military for failing to send timely reinforcements to the beleaguered police commandos.
Napeñas said he purposely left the military in the dark about the raid at the last minute because previous attempts to arrest Marwan failed because of the military's participation.
The military, for its part, said it could not have easily sent reinforcements to the SAF troopers and fire artillery under the ''time on target'' plan.
It also slammed other SAF troopers who were on standby near the clash site but failed to help their besieged SAF comrades.
This allegation was echoed by Trillanes, who said about 120 SAF commandos ready to support the 55th Special Action Company engaged in a firefight in Barangay Tukanalipao refused to help their comrades because they were unfamiliar with the terrain.
The Mamasapano clash has put a wedge between the AFP and PNP, and this latest revelation of Sen. Trillanes is seen to be a roadblock to the mending of ties between the two institutions.
In the radio interview, Lazo said SAF is again hurt by the insinuations that SAF made a deliberate effort to exclude the military in the raid.
''Ang masakit, parang lumalabas naman na kami ay ginugulangan namin ang mga kapatid namin sa AFP… Hindi na nga kami umiimik,'' Lazo said.
''Ayaw na po sana naming mag-react kasi nga inaayos namin ang relationship namin with the AFP. Sinasabi ng marami na may hidwaan. Ang sinasabi naming, wala na, inaayos nga namin."